Thursday, December 10, 2009

Daunting, complex, and of primary importance

Mikhail Gorbachev and Aleksandr Likhotal have an article out today in the European Voice. Gorbachev needs no introduction. Likhotal is president of Green Cross International and a member of the Climate Change Task Force (CCTF).

The column is fine - and I agree with its essence - about the importance of achieving real progress to address the problem of climate change. But the authors make an interesting point that highlights just how difficult the problem is. Understandably, they make reference to the critical issue of nuclear disarmament.

"In 1985 during the height of the Cold War, when negotiations were bogged down at the US-Soviet Union Geneva Summit, the negotiators were instructed by their leaders annoyed by lack of progress, “we do not want your explanations why this can't be done. Just do it!” And it was done by the morning. Today's leaders must come to Copenhagen and say, 'We want this done!'"

This is fine - but the analogy is not so apt. In comparison with the climate change talks, the bilateral negotiations between the USA & the USSR look almost simple. We had two principal actors in the negotiations. There were tangential economic issues, but they were not driving the argument against nuclear disarmament. The issue of reparations or compensation did not exist. The arguments about the certainty of scientific predictions were not relevant.

It's enough to make you nostalgic for the Cold War!